I headed over to Pittsburgh for the Digital Fabrication Conference , DigiFabCon, held at the Carnegie Science Center. It is kinda like an “intermediate” meeting for @FabLab people, not the annual meeting. There were about 50 people, some from Texas, Oklahoma, Alaska, Montreal, Bulgaria. Of course I had to go 2 hours east to meet someone that is 30 minutes west of me at Lorain Community College FabLab. I went to learn more about FabLab/FabFoundation, get some new contacts and ideas, and really talk “mobile” #MakerSpace with the Carnegie people, especially John Doctorick. The Pittsburgh area is really thriving with Maker and STEAM.
Though it was a “Fab” conference, there was no making involved. It was presentations and discussions and networking. I always wish there was some making involved. Sarah Boisvert spoke about the “New Collar Workforce”, sharing some key points from her book. Manufacturing has changed, yes there is more automation, but the human aspects have become more STEM oriented. 75 million jobs could be lost to automation by 2022, but 130 million new jobs requiring new collar skills will pop up. Geoffroi Garon-Epaule from Montreal shared with us his digital badging project, Badge Factor . It is an open source, WordPress plugin. We learned a little about America Makes . They are a collaborative entity and national accelerator for additive manufacturing, and are based in Youngstown. Yes , they have been on my list to visit.
David Woessner from Local Motors spoke about their innovations in vehicle manufacturing. There main points are global co-creation, digital fabrication, micro-factories. They can 3D print a 1000 pound vehicle and 4000 pound vehicle on same machine. Car factories cannot do that. Cars have a 5 year timeline from conception to market. They are less than one year. Olli, a small people mover, is their latest project.
Sherry Lassiter shared about the FabFoundation (part of the MIT Center for bits and atoms). For us new people she gave an overview, then spoke of some new ideas. There are 1600 FabLabs across the world, they are a “group of capabilities” not a strict list of equipment. Collaboration with others is key . They are trying to create a repository of digital fabrication in STEM curriculum activities. Right now it is called SCOPES-DF , though they are open to a different name.
The CSC FabLab had a workshop they call TAD (tactile assisted design) for some of us still around on Saturday morning. TAD came about from a request on how to get those with visual impairments more involved in the design process. The first iteration of their solution is having a variety of design materials available for people to use (wikkistix, pipe cleaners, paper & scissors, play dough..) and a person creates a design physically, say the parts of a glider (body, wing, tail) Use dark colored materials and put them on a white background. They had a white acrylic square, one side with a grid etched in it for measuring, the other side was smooth. Take a picture (can your tablet do that with voice commands?). These two steps can be done by a person with visual impairments. The picture is inserted into InkScape (or Corel Draw, or Adobe Illustrator), vectorized, then sent to the laser cutter. These computer steps are usually done by the “teacher”, as they would often be even with students without visual impairments (unless you were teaching that part of the software). We made gliders out of foam core. The photo stand has side and back guides for the tablet and acrylic square so that the square is centered in the photo. (design questions: do you make the square a rectangle that perfectly fits the shape of the photo screen?? then do you orient everything portrait or landscape??)
The most important thing I got out of the days was the Mobile Maker Space discussions. I had already downsized my ideas from a trailer to a box truck. But I needed a little more push to go from that to a van that can carry everything and you offload all the equipment. A mobile work space is “neat” , but not practical for school settings, since you can't put a whole class into it at once. Taking all the equipment into the school makes more sense. And it gives the school a vision of the tools IN their space. John gave me that push.
Took a nice little trip over to Detroit the other week for #MACUL19 (March 20-22). It was a simple 2 hour drive, thankfully. I did not attend any of the pay workshops on the 20th, but went to the Convention Center anyway with my Maker Box to test things out (shuttle bus, toting the big case around, check out the space…). I talked with one of the audio/visual tech support people for a while. I even said hi to the few people I knew. I did spend some time fiddling around with learning Python coding using Idle that I downloaded to my Mac. Eventually I want to be using micro-python on the micro:bit and Circuit Playground Express. I wish makecode had a blocks-python editor in addition to or instead of blocks-java. I had a nice dinner at the Grand Trunk Pub and spent a few hours walking around downtown. I like when downtowns’ try to reclaim some of the pavement for parks and grass and “people spots”. I even took the $0.75 People Mover for a trip around the city.
The Keynote speaker was Stephen Ritz, the man who is making gardening in the city cool. His kids are doing some tremendous things. Follow him and get his book “The Power of a Plant”. But before the keynote, we had a band… A.M.P (All Music is Power), a group of educators who do interactive concerts with students who receive special education services. When they were talking about their program, I flashed back 35 years to the State of Ohio Special Olympics Track meet, where my friend Craig and I were coaches/chaperones for our Toledo team at O.S.U. Craig needed to practice some songs for his band, so he brought his guitar. As soon as he started playing in our dorm room (and I sang a little), athletes from our team and others came into our room to dance and sing. It was awesome. Though other team chaperones did come looking for their athletes who were supposed to be in their rooms. Music draws people together.
I hit the vendor hall for a few minutes before my volunteer session at the MakerSpace. There were many tables and much stuff and a good number of people testing things out. It was open all day, both days. I sat at the micro:bit table and showed people some things with it for two hours. The time went quickly. And I didnt get to talk with my friends Jason and Chris. Jason was doing LabDo and Chris was working a cardboard construction station. I really wish (hope) that #OETC20 has a MakerSpace. Then I went to hear Tom Murray and Joe Sanfelipo pick on each other present about Future Ready Schools. Then I listened to Kyle Maginity present about lessons they learned after 1 year of a maker class (as an alternative to Middle School Robotics). They set up stations that students rotated through every week with a different tool (Sphero, Ozobot, 3D printing, coding, Keva planks, Bloxels, cardboard creations, snap circuits, wood burning, and challenges in Google Classroom to keep them directed. Their big take away was “just do it. Adapt, Organize, Collaborate”
MACUL MakerSpace :
I had my session at 4 p.m., “MakerSpaces - not just a room in your building” where we talk about mindset and why maker is good and ways to get it throughout the whole building. There were about 25 people. Some took advantage of my Maker Box and created some things (I should have taken pictures). I heard two nice comments afterwards. One was “that was exactly what I needed at the end of a long day” and “you gave my tech director a lot to think about”
After a quick trip back to the hotel, It was off to the SIG-Create meetup at the Grand Trunk to catch up with Jason and Chris. And there was food (thanks SIG-Create). Then we went to “Ready Player One” , an arcade bar, for Jason and Chris to check out and play games. I have never played arcade games. Odd for being such a tech geek. Then we were off to the whole MACUL meetup at “Punch Bowl Social” . This is an awesome place and they had lots of food for people. The bar has several areas for typical socializing, then some different side areas. One had a nice fireplace and couches. There was a jumbo jenga room. They had arcade games. And some bowling lanes, complete with shoe rental. I even heard someone mention “upstairs”. And it wasn’t so loud that you couldn’t talk to people. When I first got there, I saw a strange sight across the room. I though my eyes were deceiving me, but they were not. It was Brad Waid, who I had not seen in many years. I had forgotten that he lived near Detroit. He does a great amount of PD and speaking about AR/VR/AI , for the education world as well as corporate.
I spent a little more time in the vendor hall. I did learn that wide format printers (like Epson and Canon) can print on a whole variety of media, not just paper. Then there was a maker panel presentation with Chris, Nick Provenzano, Jennifer Bond, John Hester and someone else…(sorry). Then Chris’s session “ Superhero STEAM”. We tend to forget that there is a superhero for everyone and we can use the theme in every subject in a variety of ways, the STEAM subjects especially. But aren’t they all STEAM??? The wrap up was by Gerry Brooks. He gave us many laughs and many insights and sent us on our way to share the wealth of ideas.
MACUL was a nice time. Meet some of my PLN face to face, spend some time together, but always too little time. Grow the PLN a little. Not sure I will make the trek over to Grand Rapids in 2020, but who knows. Detroit in 2021?